The Critique Of Maslow’s Notion Of Peak Experience

16 01 2009

THE CRITIQUE ON MASLOW’S NOTION OF PEAK EXPERIENCE

Erdy Nasrul[1]

Abstract

Several psychological discussions denoted that psychology today is secular. It can be clearly approved by knowing any psychological matters which are not dealing with religious atmosphere. Peak experience of Abraham Maslow is one of them. Althought Maslow remarked that peak experience is also religious, peak experience must accord to any worldview whether it is religion or anti-religion. Then the question appears of what peak experience resulted because of its accordance with both. This writing infered that the peak experience of Maslow did not result religious causes for any religious matter must be dealing with God not human.

Keywords: peak experience, Maslow,

I. Foreword

Peak experience is the most beautiful moment along the history of human life. It is ecstatic moment or moment of rapture,[2] wherein human is unified with anything he faces; this is an amazing experience, which is available toward justice, and perfect value.[3] For Maslow, these can cause peak experience. It is an experience of peace and quite and being unified with a thing, he faces ecstatically and enjoys any matter served along with his peak experience.

This experience – to Maslow’s notion – was described by many religionists and atheists. William James mentioned it as mystical experience[4] Freud mention it as oceanic experience, which is experiencing moment of childhood. For it can be accepted either by religionists or atheists, it concluded that it can be liberated from any spiritual or metaphysical viewpoints.[5] Moreover, Maslow said: “it is urgent to liberate this experience from any theological, supranatural matters, even if it had been done for thousand years”.[6] It is also legitimated by Calvin S Hall and Gardner Lindzey that it is not to be religious.[7]

It is clear that peak experience is not conected to ‘The Sacred’. Therefore it can be a problem when this experience is used for analyzing mankind metaphysically.

II. A Brief about Maslow

Maslow was the first child, who had 6 brothers. He was born in April 1st 1908, in non Jewish Brooklyn New York. His parents were uneducated Jewish, who emigrated from Russia.[8]

He always read many books. Along his adulthood, he was attracted by many works of Alfred North Whitehead, Henry Bergson, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Plato, and Spinoza. But the most attractive one is the work of William Graham Summer.[9]

When he was twenty years Maslow married Bertha Goodman, his own niece.[10] After his marriage, Maslow gave many contribution for the develoment of psychology today.

He started learning psychology in Wisconsin University and successfully reached his licentiate degree on bachelor of art in 1930. He reached his master degree on 1931 and doctoral degree or Ph.D on 1934.[11]

When he was student, he analyzed his two professors’ personality. Maslow concluded that both were similarly happy because of their discovery.

Since this analysis inspired Maslow to find something new about human’s personality, then he arranged a research on healthy personality which its sample consisted of sellected people whom are celebrated and high-profile.[12] The main thing, there were certain similar attituds which were found through self actualizing people.[13] Maslow concluded that they were self actualizing people. Furthermore, there were many uniqueness through these self actualizing people. But the most unique one was that they usually had peak experience.[14]

He also met John B Watson, the celebrated figure of behaviourist in the same university. Maslow was so proud of him. His pride is expressed by arranging a doctoral thesis on “some parallels Between Sexual and Dominance Behavior of Infrahuman primates and the Fantasies of patients in Psychoteraphy”, which is supervised by Prof. Harry Harlow.

A year after his graduation, exactly in 1937, Maslow and his own family returned to New York. He started his life working with E L Thorndike at Columbia. It is concentrating to the research on mankind’s sexuality.[15]

He was also proposed to be professor on psychology and teaching full time at Brooklyn College along 1937-1951.[16] This city is called psychology center for Maslow many times found and discussed many psychological matters.

Other honor that he accepted was the permanent membership of Loughlin Foundation at Menlo Park, California.

Maslow was suffering from the heart attack that caused his end of his life in 8 of June 1970.[17]

Along his life, Maslow was considered to be a psycholog, who shifted the paradigm of psychology, which firstly concerns on neurotic research or was too animalistic. Maslow considered a new research on world celebrated figures on account of the development of psychology

Maslow began finding his theory by researching Indian race of Northern Blackfoot through Alberta Canada. This research is funded by the advisory of research on social sciences. Along summer, Maslow spent his times to live with them. Along this living Maslow watched 15 fightings. He successfully watched that their children physically were seldom punished. Their amount was about 800 people, who totally hated white skin for their crime upon children. Maslow discovered that hostility of humankind was not a destiny; it is rather humankind’s creation through their culture and civilization.[18]

Other scientific efforts are his writing which were published, known as journal of humanistic psychology. His beloved wife, Bertha Goodman also wrote a memorial volume included Maslow’s note and his biography entitled Abraham H. Maslow: a Memorial Volume. This is published in 1972, two years after her husband death.[19]

Maslow also arranged books that became contributions and influenced the development of humanistic psychology. His works are:

1. Motivation and personality

It is his first work published in 1950. Maslow explained that human has natural destiny, which is higher than what many people had described. But this assumption is still based on data of experimental psychology and psychoanalysis. However, this book is the starting point of shifting paradigm into humanistic psychology, which is to Maslow’s notion not perfect yet.

2. Toward Psychology of Being

This book is published in 1964. It concerns psychological health more. This psychological health is what Maslow means as the condition of self being integrated. In other word, it is self actualization. In this book, such self actualization is discussed more deeply within its aftereffect. Maslow concluded that self actualization usually causes peak experience. The deeper explanation on peak experience is written in his further book.

3. Religions, Values and peak experiences

It is published in 1964. It explains deeply what the peak experience is. Besides, Maslow also describes that peak experience is an experience, wherein the prophets have felt. This experience is not supernatural or metaphysical again, for such a thing is just beyond the human’s possibility. He denoted that this experience is scientific and able to be analyzed psychologically.

4. The psychology of Science: A Reconnaissance

This is published in 1966. here, anyone can know Maslow’s notion of knowledge and science which both is just human creativity. Here, Maslow criticized any scince that Behaviorism and Psychoanalysis had produced. For Maslow denoted that both denied a great and higher dimensions of humankind. Then, Maslow offered the science of tao, which is defined as the science that is observed directly and really based on empirical reality within recognizing other’s personality.

5. The Farther Reaches of Human Nature

It is published in 1967, about three years before Maslow’s dying. It can be categorized as his final work, for here anyone will find his thoughts seem to be more perfect. Such the concept of self actualization, the hierarchy of need is in the contrary with deficiency need. Onyone, who read it will know how Maslow begins his studies of self actualization.

III. Self-validity: Based on Peak experience

The experience, which is based on senses is aimed to gain knowledge. James Alfred Martin says that experience can be the source of knowledge.[20] in the eyes of Maslow, These senses – if those are used totally – make one knows his self validity. This knowledge is popularly known as B-Knowledge (being knowledge), or illumination-knowledge.[21]

This validity also can be reached by the experience of sorrow. Maslow mentions it as desolation experiences.[22] But Maslow did not explain more of what desolation experience is.

Besides, peak experience causes the depth knowledge. Maslow explained that it is also mystical or peak experience.[23] He stated:

…There is no doubt that great insights and revelations are profoundly felt in mystic or peak-experiences, and certainly some of these are, ipso facto, intrinsically valid as experiences. That is, one can and does learn from such experiences that, e.g., joy, ecstasy and rapture do in fact exist and that they are in principle available for the experiencer, even if they never have been before. Thus the peaker learns surely and certainly that life can be worthwhile, that it can be beautiful and valuable. There are ends in life, i.e., experiences which are so precious in themselves as to prove that not everything is a means to some end other than itself.[24]

To Maslow mind, this peak experience causes the system of value for one’s life. Peak experience can have one’s life been worth, enjoyable and originally for his self. To Maslow mind, it is “the experience of being a real identity”.[25] Maslow said that being a real self is able to experience anything and can consider someone that he is not artificial; anything he does is real and original. This real self is caused by what Maslow said as ‘the real revelation’.[26] Anyhow, for this experience is very individual and personal one sometimes can not be separated from this peak experience. He just wants to experience it more.

In fact, human may not be selfish for his life is related with society. The more he is selfish the more he leaves his natural inclination for being a creature – based on Ibnu Khaldun and al-Farabi – that naturally and socially must live with other people.[27] Furthermore, this being selfish is because of using the senses alone without refering to something beyond the senses. Using the sense here is understanding any reality empirically. Nevertheless, using the sense alone can cause someone be the same to animals, which – to al-Ghazali’s notion – are also using the senses. [28]

Self validity knowledge that appears because of peak experience is totally based on reason and experience that is from human, neither with reference to metaphysic nor God. Alparslan said that knowledge that is based on human’s senses must be approved again by metaphysic, which are determined by revelations. Soon, the knowledge will be approved and true. In this matter, knowledge must refers to knowledge of God, or popularly known as revelation, which are determined by religion.[29] Meanwhile, Maslow just refers to sense alone. For to his mind the peak experience will be better as long as it is free of theology.[30] Therefore the validity of knowledge – based on Maslow’s worldview, particularly his view of knowledge – which is gained through peak experience is still questioned for it is only based on human’s experience and reason.

IV. Condition through Peak Experience

Maslow said that any ecstatic values gained by peak experience seem to be religious. His statement that was written in Religions Values and Peak experiences describes those points, which are – to his mind – religious.[31] Moreover, he explained that practically any events through the peak experience is also religious. Therefore, he said that the peak experience is also religious experience. In fact, this consideration must be reanalyzed for – based on James Alfred Martin’s notion – religious experience is an unseparated part of religion, it is also a key to understanding religion.[32] But this writing will firstly concerns on religious points of peak experience that Maslow said. To reanalyze it will be done in the end of this writing.

In the eyes of Maslow, peak experience or religious experience is purposed to fulfill humankind’s instinct emotionally.[33] This purpose is seen through his effort on describing peak experience as unity experience, as Maslow said that one wishes to wholly be united.[34] Maslow remarked that one considers his self a part of his nature, and wants to have his self and nature been united.[35] It is based on the consciousness through the peak experience seems to be whole as if it has been united.[36] For Maslow, it is a basic meaning of religious faith for many people.[37] It means the unity, and philosophical meaning of this life.[38]

The peak experience also solves any problem of dichotomy of humility and pride, which is preliminarily united as “single complex superordinate unity”.[39] Such people can be proud in a certain sense and humble too in a certain sense. Pride fused with humility is not hubris neither paranoia, and humility fused with pride is not masochism.

The peak experience can has one’s perception been more clear and whole. This perception is just experienced by him self. It is known as ‘total attention’[40] or ‘most total kind of visual perceiving or listening or feeling’.[41] In this sense, attention cannot differentiate one another, which is in fact; common people still do such a thing. The peak experiencer does not differentiate the importance and unimportance. He does not make judgment. Both dissimilarity is considered the same because of peak experience.[42]

Many unique things happened through peak experience. Commonly, one sees anything subjectively in accordance with what he needs. Because of peak experience, he can be objective; seeing anything as it is; he can differentiate his need and see anything as it is. He sees the world as the world is. Maslow said:

The cognition of being (B-cognition) that occurs in peak-experiences tends to perceive external objects, the world, and individual people as more detached from human concerns. Normally we perceive everything as relevant to human concerns and more particularly to our own private selfish concerns. In the peak-experiences, we become more detached, more objective, and are more able to perceive the world as if it were independent not only of the perceiver but even of human beings in general. The perceiver can more readily look upon nature as if it were there in itself and for itself, not simply as if it were a human playground put there for human purposes. He can more easily refrain from projecting human purposes upon it. In a word, he can see it in its own being (as an end in itself) rather than as something to be used, something to be afraid of, or something to wish for or to be reacted to in some other personal, human, self-centered way.[43]

It is also supported by Ninian Smart that peak experience can cause someone see anything more objectively. It has someone been conscious that there is one thing that is beyond his nature and known along his experiencing peakly. Finally, this experience is a foundation of looking the world correctly.[44] This consciousness is B-Cognition, it is a consciousness or cognition of mankind that subject is not object, which influences one self to see the object truly, influencing a whole and powerful perception,[45] or Maslow said it is “more object-centered than ego-centered”,[46] which is the sign that one is not selfish and not just thinking about his own self.

Along his experiencing peakly, he rather considers his self-being perfect and valid in addition his self-confidence is more growing.[47] The peak experience is considered most valuable.[48] Maslow reported that many persons amaze and being proud of experiencing peakly for it is alive.[49] Moreover, Maslow emphasizes that “Peak-experiences can make life worthwhile by their occasional occurrence”.[50] Finally, it gives a current meaning of life, and makes this life more meaningful.[51]

As the meaningful thing, anyone experiences peakly will consider that it is the final experience that may not be experienced anymore rather than a common experience.[52] Maslow considered that it is a starting point that denotes the end of this world and the appearance of valued object.[53]

Here, it is known that Maslow’s thought is incoherent. The first time he said that peak experience is the sign of selfishness. He said that the experiencer has a powerful personality and been pure, transcending his own self in his effort not to think about his self.[54]

Since Maslow considered that peak experience resulted the worth life, then this life is worthy only worldly. The meaning of life is just cognition of probability or opportunity which is based on empirical reality that one faces. Simply, it is consciousness of what must be done along certain situation.[55] It just implies of what worldly attitude towards life is wherein this attitude is based on here and nowness without considering supranatural values. It just considers any value which is dealing with worldly life wherefore metaphysic is not used, or subordinated. If so, the meaning of life will be a part of secularization.

The unity of nature and experiencer that Maslow meaned is not unity of life here and hereafter that is usually interpreted as the balance between the life here and hereafter.[56] Indeed, this unity that creates a balance makes one conscious that God is very close with the life here and ready to welcome human’s life of the hereafter. However, knowing this is only discerned through intuition.[57] But, Maslow’s unity is only of nature that causes human knowledge is just based on nature and human’s experience. Such knowledge that finally becomes the meaning of life is not philosophical because any philosophical meaning of life is discerned through revelation of God.

V. Unconsciousness and Attitude Toward Life

In fact, human should actualize his potency, passing his days totally, which soon he does not consider spending his times. So does the peak experience, the experiencer along his effort to experience peakly he does not consider even forget where and when he is. This unconsciousness is not found through ordinary or common experience. Maslow said that peak experience can has time and space been disoriented.[58]

Space and time are parts of human life, which someone still considers both in his effort to do something. To Maslow’s notion, along experiencing peakly, one just sees that the world is full of beauty, good, hoped and meaningful.[59] He said that the world is never denoted as evil or unhoped.[60] In other word, the world is accepted and understood. Maslow said that the experiencer would say that he understand what the world is. [61]

Nevertheless, he remarked that peak experiencer also accepts the dark side of life. He considers that any problem of life such as disasters are the problems to solve enjoyfully and also a part of life that can not be leaved. Along experiencing peakly one usually considers these matters as if the peak experience can solve the problem of life.[62]

Based on that assumption above, Maslow considered it as a path toward godlike wherein someone is divinized.[63] He can contemplate and become the whole parts of existence. Anyone should justify him as goodness, as he is and must see any evil as being limited and selfish.[64]

However, Maslow limited godlike or ‘divine’ as the acceptance of worldly life whether its light or dark dimensions. Such notion, with reference to Maslow’s view of God is not metaphysical for its construction is only based on empirical reality. If it is applied in Islamic viewpoint it will destroys its vision of what al-Jili said as universal man, which is very metaphysical and mystical.[65] Finally, there will be no Sufism and any spiritual values of Islam.

VI. Passiveness through Peak Experience

Maslow wanted to put the truth in its proper place and the evil also in its proper place too. But however, it seems to be improbable for the cognition through peak experience is passive and receptive. It is simpler than normal perception.[66]

This passive cognition is established by emotions as wonder, awe, reverence, humility, surrender, and even worship before experiencing peakly.[67] This causes the unconsciousness of the experiencer that he does not consider that he experiences ‘the good death’.[68] For Maslow, it is a religious attitude towards death.[69]

This passive cognition should not be found through peak experience for it can cause the evil side of experience appear and accepted. How come peak experience creates a good person if it consists of experiencing devil that only gives the badness for human. If it is accepted then peak experience is unable to cause a good person.

VII. The Form of Unity

The peak experience also results an integral viewpoint. It is a view that neutralizes the conflict of life. It denotes the united and integral perception and the experiencer will be united and negating the conflict, hostility, and any negative attitude towards life.[70] It is what Maslow said as “unitive consciousness“. It is an integral cognition that denotes ‘The Sacred’. Afterwards, he will see anything worldly again and seems to be secularized.[71]

This perception is so amazing for it can change one’s personality.[72] At least, this change is usually known as therapeutic.[73] For Maslow, it reminds anyone of religious conversion, which illuminates one self, and it is an amazing moment of his life. It is also a metaphor of getting inside the heaven personally, wherein afterward one will return to the world.[74]

According to Maslow, this metaphor is a sign of transcient pleasure.[75] Peak experience can have someone been unconscious for a moment. Afterwards, he will be as before. Furthermore, he will be more unique, more real or “to have become more a real person”.[76] Maslow remarked that he will be more responsible and active. His self-alone is the center of his perception, more controlled, free of willing anything he likes.[77]

The explanations above concerns any matter of manners as the aftereffects of peak experience, which are hoped to be positive. However, anyone who experiences peakly will be lucky and will say that it is amazing.[78] The experiencer usually says, “I don’t deserve this“.[79] If he is religious, he will thank God more or natures, faith or his own luck. To Maslow’s mind it seems to be interesting:

“It is interesting in the present context that this can go over into worship, giving thanks, adoring, giving praise, oblation, and other reactions which fit very easily into orthodox religious frameworks. In that context we are accustomed to this sort of thing-that is, to the feeling of gratitude or all-embracing love for everybody and for everything, leading to an impulse to do something good for the world, an eagerness to repay, even a sense of obligation and dedication.”[80]

Maslow wanted to say that the peak experience is the same to religious tradition. In fact, he had said before that it is not so. It seems that Maslow’s thoughts are contradictory. However, peak experience is just worldly experience and anything concerns the metaphysical or supernatural matters are not related to the peak experience.

If peak experience does not concern supranature or metaphysic it means that Maslow’s view of ‘real person’ – based on Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas – is not he, who recognizes his natural inclination, neither knowing that his own life will essentially be returned to the Supreme Being beyond this world,[81] nor human, who has an integral soul that in the eyes of Mulla Shadra’s denotes the service and submission of his own God.[82] Furthermore, this ‘real person’ also means being free willing or choosing, which is unaccepted. In Hamzah Fansuri’s notion, God determines human’s destiny.[83] Al-Attas said that if human chooses anything freely – based on his submission of God – means he must choose any good thing neither chooses the evil, for God alone determines any good thing, which is written in His holy text.[84]

VIII. Peak experience and the Similarity between Religion and Atheism.

To Maslow’s notion, any prophets, who had brought religions have experienced peakly. It is the sign of their revelations that sooner becoming illumination and playing so great a role in the history of religions. Maslow believed that it is a worldly revelation, which is scientific and being able to discover.[85]

Maslow’s assumption is that those peakers or prophets have the similar experiences, which “each peaker discovers, develops and retains his own religion”[86] But this essential core-religious experience may be embedded also in a theistic, supernatural context or in a non-theistic context. This private religious experience is shared by all the great world religions including the atheistic ones. this intrinsic core-experience is a meeting ground not only, for Christians and Jews and Mohammedans but also for priests and atheists, for communists and anti-communists, for conservatives and liberals, for artists and scientists, for men and for women, and for different constitutional types, that is to say, for athletes and for poets, for thinkers and for doers.[87] Maslow believed that all people have or can have peak-experiences, which their content may be considered to be very similar.[88] It is also supported that they are the same for what is essential is the way mystics feel about ‘The Sacred’, and about their relation in Him, wherefore it is considered as the necessary element of mystical experience.[89]

But this mystical experience is experiencing God, meanwhile, Maslow’s peak experience is just experiencing something that is worldly considered absolute, and it is not God.

However, the apparent similarities that may be found between their various visions of God and nature of God cannot be identified as the one similarity for every one of them serves and belongs to a different conceptual way of life.[90] If it is considered that every one experiences peakly can experience ‘something beyond the nature’, then ‘something beyond the nature’ here is not similar, and this sense of similarity seems to be the similarity of degrees of individual peak experiences which does not of necessity lead to the assumption that the religions of individuals who experienced such similarity is equal as revealed religions at the level of ordinary existence.[91] If this similarity is just concerning the degree of religious experience, then the manner such: rebellion, arrogance and falsehood are still found through this peak experience, and it was improbable to say that the prophets, who had brought God messages brought those manners through their ‘peak experiences’. Therefore, such what Maslow said:

Characteristically the abstraction-type of the legalist-ecclesiastic is the conserving organization man, an officer and arm of the organization, who is loyal to the structure of the organization which has been built up on the basis of the prophet’s original revelation in order to make the revelation available to the masses. From everything we know about organizations, we may very well expect that people will become loyal to it, as well as to the original prophet and to his vision; or at least they will become loyal to the organization’s version of the prophet’s vision. I may go so far as to say that characteristically (and I mean not only the religious organizations but also parallel organizations like the Communist Party or like revolutionary groups) these organizations can be seen as a kind of punch card or IBM version of an original revelation or mystical experience or peak-experience to make it suitable for group use and for administrative convenience.[92]

Is still questioned, for prophets, who believed in God and atheist or communist, who did not believe in God did not have the same experience. The prophets physically and metaphysically experienced ‘The Sacred’. Meanwhile any atheists or communists or anyone experienced anything worldly did not experience ‘The Sacred’, they just experienced a thing worldly wherefore the validity of communists and atheists’ peak experience is not the same to the validity of what the prophets had experienced, for their experiences are in accord to what revealed religions have determined.

Furthermore, Maslow’s assumption of this similarity or anyone, who thinks that – based on peak experience – religions are the same, moreover this similarity is also including atheism is rather misleading and perhaps meant to be so for motives than the truth.[93] Therefore, peak experience is rather misleading and just for motives than the truth.

IX. Reducing Religions of Being Personal Rather than Institutional: Based on Peak experiences

Maslow wanted to legitimate the existence of peak experience. He always noted that it probably has one been perfect. But this individual peak experience seems to be a problem when it is related to religion. The history has approved that Joan of Arc, the hero of France had experienced few Santa peakly and she had been considered performing heresy, and finally she was burned. In this case, Maslow said that religion, especially the church can be formidable adversary of peak experience.[94] He said:

“The mystic experience, the illumination, the great awakening, along with the charismatic seer who started the whole thing, are forgotten, lost, or transformed into their opposites”.[95]

Maslow hoped that peak experience can be allowed by religion, but it just can be the enemy, which can have peak experience disappeared and forgotten. The case above denoted that Joan of Arc, who individually and peakly experienced the Santa, was tended to have individual and mystical religious tendency, or Maslow said it religion (with ‘r’non capital).[96] On the contrary, the church is considered as legalistic-organizational Religion, or conventional religion.[97]

The second tendency, to Maslow’s notion, seems to disturb personal development. He said: “If organized religion has any ultimate effects at all, it is through its power to shake the individual in his deepest insides”.[98] He hoped that human today should know that religion had cheated them. He said:

Very many people in our society apparently see organized religion as the locus, the source, the custodian and guardian and teacher of the spiritual life. Its methods, its style of teaching, its content are widely and officially accepted as the path, by many as the only path, to the life of righteousness, of purity and virtue, of justice and goodness, etc.[99]

Maslow also said that this second tendency too emphasized the traditional values, not starting to fulfill the basic or physiological needs of human life, which is considered as the more urgent things than religious preaching. It denotes that it seems to fail;[100] it is a failure of having human emotional instincts satisfied. Therefore, to Maslow’s viewpoint it is dangerous effects of having the second tendency, which resists peak experience.[101] Maslow analyzed that it had dereligionized this life. Based on religious dogma Religion has religionized the life, but its attitude towards peak experience has dereligionized this life.[102]

Maslow hoped that human could know and recognize his depth dimension. He believed that this hope was well done by agnosticists, who had experienced peakly. Confidently he said that for these agnosticists have peak experience they are also considered having religious experiences.[103]

This statement seems to be questioned of how can the man does not believe in God can have religious experience. It seems that Maslow’s notion denotes that he just focused on the experiencer, it is based on Joachim Wach, saying that experience seems to suggest human instead of any divine activity.[104] Meanwhile, the essential principle of religious experience is experiencing God, which is firstly started by belief in Him, for it is – to Emill Durkheim notion – is central.[105] Ninian Smart also noted that experiencing God is the basic of religious experience.[106] Joachim Wach said so, that religious experience is what being experienced as Ultimate Reality.[107] If not so, then religious experience, which is not considering the existence of God such agnosticists experienced, is just an understanding religion without referring to God,[108] or Wach said that it is only ‘pseudo-religious experience’.[109]

This assumption is from Maslow’s notion of ‘The Sacred’ considered as “another instance of the patologizing by isolation and by splitting off”.[110] It is also based on Maslow’s view of God that is only a principle of harmony, neiher metaphysical nor transcendent Being that has been explained in chapter two. If it is supernatural, it will be miles away from this world and cannot be in this world, or cannot be secular.[111] For Maslow, ‘The Sacred’ is natural, which need no supernatural.[112] Then, ‘The Sacred’, which is considered as God through many world religions is (based on humanistic psychology) not God in the level of transcendence or in the level of esoteric. It is only the worldly. Therefore, through the peak experience, if someone experiences the sacred he does not experience God, but he just experiences the worldly thing. This is the problem of why the peak experience can have someone been right in addition false. It also influences that such God would never satisfy the religious feeling, the peak feeling, or any feeling as the aftereffect of this peak experience.[113]

It is also based on humanistic psychology view of religion. It is just the religion centralized human potency, who is believed as the deputy of God in this world.[114] But it means that human is the symbol of power dominated by human alone.[115] Finally, religion is produced and arranged by human too, not by God. The role of religion is nothing and structural dimensions of religion are useless. Religion is disappeared and satisfaction of human emotional instincts appear.

This humanistic psychology appears on account of the secular Western humanism.[116] The peak experience is a part of this humanistic psychology. It can be clarified that peak experience is also secular for it is a part of humanistic psychology based on the secular western humanism.

Furthermore, Maslow’s critique of institutional religions seems to deny religions. In fact, he must know that religious experience is based on institutional religion; that based on al-Attas’ notion, religion needs something, which is the source of it, especially the prophets, and his honest companions, who firstly preached the religion and firstly experienced ‘The Sacred’,[117] Such as: any religious experience through Sufism is based on the earliest religious experience of the prophet and his companions.[118] In the end, it must be sure that any transcendent, mystical, peak experience, or whatever the word is, which denotes the experience of a thing beyond this nature and beyond human’s life is related to metaphysical points, which are available through religious traditions. However, Evelyn Underhill said that this experience is communion with a living Reality, an object of love, capable of response, which demands and receives from them a total self-donation; it is God Him self.[119] Meanwhile, Maslow secularized this experience and had it been profane and secular, which he confidently mentioned it as peak experience.

It causes the soul stands alone without referring to God for any worldly matter controls the soul. This causes influences the acceptance of any empirical knowledge by only using his senses and just being based on his animal soul. Such a soul – based on al-Jili’s notion – will not accept any truth.[120] Furthermore, Suhrawardi said that such a soul can not experience the pleasure yet, for the pleasure is experienced by knowing and loving The Ultimate Being.[121]

However, the conception of peak experience was secularized in accordance with the condition of Western thought is also secularized. It can be seen well that Maslow also confused to determine anyone experienced peakly can be whether true of false. This confusion is based on secularization of psychology, which – to Arnold A Loen’s notion – resulted no constant direction. Soon it was lack and not speaking well for truth.[122] Summing up, it was clear that Maslow’s peak experience also has no constant direction and not result the truth for it was lack and not speaking well for truth.

X. Final Remark

The concept of peak experience that Maslow constructed is clear that it is not conected to ‘The Sacred’. Therefore it can be a problem when this experience is used for analyzing mankind metaphysically.

This problem is about the similiarity. Even though, Maslow said that peak experience is the same to religious experience, but this statemet is denied for religious experience must be based on religion such as that purpoted by Ninian Smart, Emill Durkheim and James Alfred Martin. But they also did not denote that the true religious experience must be based on experiencing the real God such the prophet and his companions had done. However, it can be known that peak experience is not the same to religious experience.

To Islamic view point, religious experience is experiencing the real God, which can influence one’s personality until he can be a universal man. Meanwhile, Maslow said that peak experience can have someone been godlike. Maslow limited godlike or ‘divine’ as the acceptance of worldly life whether it is white or black dimensions. If it is applied in Islamic viewpoints it will destroys its vision of universal man, which is very metaphysical and mystical.

This unmetaphysical point also can be seen that peak experience just influences someone to be a real person. But ‘real person’ is not he, who recognizes his natural inclination, or knowing that his own life will essentially be returned to the Supreme Being beyond this world. In fact, real person is he, who knows his originality of being alive. It is his returning to know his self as God’s slave. His originality appears when his soul is integrated and in peace. Hamzah Fansuri mentioned it as al-nafs al-muthmainnah.

Furthermore, this peak experience has someone been selfish. The more someone experiences peakly the more he wants to experience such it, and finally he can be selfish and leaving social life. However, the social life, as the writer has pointed out is the natural inclination of human life.

This experience offers the meaning of life that is based on knowledge gained through peak experience. This knowledge seems to be very worldly and anthropocentric. Nevertheless, such a knowledge is never illuminated by ‘The Sacred’. Such a knowledge just resulted in an emptiness.

This emptiness is the implication of humanistic psychology, which this psychological force appears on account of the secular Western Humanism. Meanwhile, the construction Maslow’s worldview has been analyzed and finally it can be known that Maslow seems to appropriate with Secularism. It can be clarified that peak experience is also secular for it is a part of humanistic psychology which is based on the secular Western Humanism and also not separated from Maslow’s secular worldview. It was clear that Maslow’s peak experience also has no constant direction and not resulted the truth for it was lack and not speaking well for truth.


[1] The Writer is honored to be a coordinator of discussion of Centre For Islamic and Occidental Studies, also graduate of The Darussalam Institute of Islamic Studies on 2007.

[2] Abraham Harold Maslow. Toward a Psychology of Being. Van Nostrand Reinhold. Canada. 1968. p: 7. it will be abbreviated by toward a psychology of Being

[3] Abraham Harold Maslow. 1971. The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. A Viking Compass

[4] James mentioned four characteristics of mystical experiences: unexplainable, seem to be noetic, transient, and passiveness. See: William James. 1911. The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in human Nature. Prometheus Books. New York. P: 38

[5] See: Frank G Goble. 1992. Mazhab ketiga: Psikologi Humanistik Abraham Maslow. Translated by: A Supraktinya. Kanisius. Yogyakarta. P: P: 101

[6] Abraham Harold Maslow. 1994. Motivasi dan Kepribadian. Translated from Motivation and personality, by: Nurul Imam. PT Pustaka Binaman Pressindo. Jakarta. P: 20

[7] Teori-Teori Holistik. P: 111

[8] Frank G. Goble 1992. Mazhab Ketiga: Psikologi Humanistik Abraham Maslow. Kanisius. Yogyakarta. P: 30

[9] It entitles Falkway. See: Ibid. P: 28

[10] Boeroe, C. George. 2005. Personality Theories: Melacak Kepribadian Anda Bersama Psikolog Dunia. (Trans) Inyiak Ridwan Muzir. Primasophie. Yogyakarta. . P: 276-277

[11] Actually, Maslow is hoped to learn law, but he prefered to psychology. See: Armahedi Mahzar, foreword on Abraham Maslow. 2004. Psikologi Sains: Tinjauan Kritis Terhadap Psikologi Ilmuwan & Ilmu Pengetahuan Modern. (trans) Hani’ah. Teraju. Bandung. P: vii-viii

[12] Few of Maslow samples had passed away. They are: These 20 persons are.: G.W. Carver, Eugene V. Debs, Thomas Eakins, Fritz Kreisler, Goethe, Pablo Casals, Martin Buber, Danilo Dolchi, Arthur E Morgan, John Keats, David Hilbert, Arthur Waley, D T Susuki, Adlai Stevenson, Sholom Aleichem, Robert Browning, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglas, Joseph Shumpeter, Robert Benchley, Ida Tarbel, harriet Tubman, George Washington, Karl Muenzinger, Joseph Hayden, Camille Pissaro, Edward Bibring, George William Russel, Pierre Renoir, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Peter Kropotkin, John Altgeld, Thomas More, Edward Bellamy, Benjamin Franklin, John Muir dan Walt Whitman. Maslow found their data by reading and earning their books. His other samples are a student of Brandeis college whom actualized his own self. see: Ibid. P: 50 , 48

[13] Ibid. P: 47-48

[14] Ibid. P: 97

[15] C George Boeroe. Op.Cit. P: 277

[16] Calvin S. Hall. Gardner Lindzey. 1993. Teori-Teori Holistik (organismik-fenomenologis). Kanisius. Yogyakarta. P: 106.

[17] Encyclopedia Knowledge. Vol 12. Grolier incorporated. Danbury. Connecticut. USA. 1993. P: 165

[18] Frank G Goble. Op.Cit. P: 65

[19] Bertha Goodman. Foreword, in: Abraham harold Maslow. 1971. The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. A Viking Compass. P: ii

[20] James Alfred Martin. Religious Experience, in Mircea Eliade (ed). 1993. The Encyclopedia of Religion. Vol 11. Simon & Schuster Macmillan. New York. P: 323.

[21] Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: 80

[22] Ibid. P: 74

[23] Ibid. P: 75

[24] Ibid. P: 75

[25] Ibid. P: 75

[26] Ibid. P: 75

[27] Abdurrahman ibn Muhammad ibn Khaldun al-Hadrami. al-Muqaddimah. Dar – al Fikr. No year, no town. P: 33. See also. Michael Sastrapatedja SJ. 1979. Culture and Religion: a Study of Ibn Khaldun Philosophy of Culture as a Framework for Critical Assessment of Contemporary Islamic Thought in Indonesia. The Doctoral Thesis. Pontificia Universitas Gregoriana. Rome. P: 33. See also: Abu Nasr al-Farabi. 1995. Ara Ahl al-Madinah al-Fadhilah. Daru wa maktabah al-hilal. Beirut. Libanon. P: 112-113.

[28] Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali. Ihya Ulum al-Din. Vol 4. dar al-Qalam. Beirut. P: 275

[29] See: Alparslan Acikgence. 1996. Islamic Science Toward Definition. ISTAC. Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia. P: 87. It is mentioned as ‘inner experience’. It also can be a facilitator of gaining knowledge. But this knowledge should be examined again by revelation. See: Alparslan Acikgence. 1996. Scientific Thought in Islam: an Essay in The History and Philosophy Islamic Science. ISTAC. Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia. P: 36. It is also said that knowledge of God, which is known as being written through His revelation is known as ‘innate knowledge’. This knowledge is beard by human naturally. Since the first time he was born, he already has known that this knowledge is true. Then, the knowledge, which is gained through peak experience must be based on innate knowledge. See: Syihabuddin Yahya Suhrawardi. 1999. Hikmat al-Isyraq. (Trans) John Walbridge & Hossein Ziai. Brigham Young University Press. Provo. Utah. P: 8

[30] See: Frank G Goble. Op.Cit. P: P: 101. See also: Motivasi dan Kepribadian. P: 20. see also: Teori-Teori Holistik. P: 111.

[31] Ibid. P: 65

[32] James Alfred Martin. Op.Cit. P: 324

[33] Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: 43

[34] Ibid. P: 59

[35] Ibid. P: 59

[36] See: Toward Psychology of Being. P: 74

[37] Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: 59

[38] Ibid. P: 59

[39] Ibid. P: 68

[40] See: Toward a psychology of Being. P: 74

[41] Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: 60

[42] Ibid. P: 60

[43] Ibid. P: 61

[44] Ninian Smart. The Philosophy of Religion. SPH 19. No year. No town. P: 12

[45] Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: 61

[46] Ibid. P: 61

[47] Toward Psychology of Being. P: 79

[48] Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: 62

[49] Ibid. P: 62

[50] Ibid. P: 62

[51] Ibid. P: 62

[52] Ibid. P: 62

[53] Ibid. P: 62

[54] Ibid. P: 67

[55] Victor Emil Frankl. Op.Cit. P: 169

[56] Rasulullah said: I’mal li dunyÉka ka annaka ta’Êsyu abadan wa’mal li Ékhiratika ka annaka tamËtu ghadan. (transmitted by Bukhari & muslim).

[57] Prolegomena to The Metaphysic of Islam. P: 177-178

[58] Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: 63. see also psikologi sains. P: 75. See also: Toward Psychology of Being. P: 85

[59] Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: 63-64

[60] Ibid. P: 63-64

[61] Ibid. P: 63-64

[62] Ibid. P: 63-64

[63] Ibid. P: 64. See also: Toward Psychology of Being. P: 92

[64] Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: 64

[65] Universal man is the perfect one, which al-Jili described him as the reality, which is surrounded by existences from its first appearance up to its end. He is just Muhammad peace is upon him. See: Abdul Karim ibn Ibrahim al-Jili. 1997. al-Insan al-Kamil fi Ma’rifat al-Awakhir wa al-Awail. Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah. Beirut. P: 210

[66] Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: 65. See also: The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. P: 176

[67] Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: 65

[68] Ibid. P: 65

[69] Ibid. P: 65

[70] Ibid. P: 65-66

[71] See: Ibid. P: 68. See also: James Alfred Martin. Op.Cit. P: 324

[72] Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: 66

[73] Ibid. P: 66

[74] Ibid. P: 66

[75] Toward Psychology of Being. P: 88

[76] Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: 67

[77] Ibid. P: 67

[78] Toward Psychology of Being. P: 88

[79] Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: 67-68

[80] Ibid. P: 67-68

[81] See: QS: al-Baqarah: 22. The originality of human is his returning to know his self as god’s slave. His originality when his soul is integrated and in peace, or Hamzah Fansuri mentioned it as nafs al-muthmainnah. See: Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas. 1970. The Mysticism of Hamzah Fansuri. The doctoral thesis. University of Malaya Press. Kuala Lumpur. P: 90. See also: Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas. 1986: a Commentary on The Hujjat al-Siddiq of Nur al-Din al-Raniri: Being an Exposition of The Salient Points of Distinction between the Positions of the Theologians, The Philosophers, The Sufis and The Pseudo-Sufis on The Ontological Relationship Between God and The World and Related Questions. Ministry of Culture. Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia. P: 127. See also: QS: al-Fajr: 27-30.

[82] Mulla Shadra expresses this integrated soul as the attitudes of slaves towards his king. Clearly, it is the relations of angels and cosmic intellects with their God. See; Fazlur Rahman. 1975. The Philosophy of Mulla Sadra. State University of New York Press. Albany. P: 204. It is also interpreted as returning of the soul to God. See: Mulla Shadra. 1981. The Wisdom of the Throne. (Trans of) al-Hikmat al-‘Arsyiyyah, by James Winston Morris (also commentator). Princeton University Press. New Jersey. P: 131. See also: Syihab al-Din al-Suhrawardi. 1993. Maqamat al-Shufiyyah. Dar al-Masyriq. Beirut. P: 59

[83] See: Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas. 1966. Raniri and The Wujudiyyah of 17th Century Acheh. Malaysia Printers Limited. Singapore. P: 56, 131. See also: al-Ghazali.1988. Kitab al-Arba’in fi Ushul al-Din. Dar al-Jail. Beirut. P: 228.

[84] Prolegomena to The Metaphysic of Islam. P: 33.

[85] Ibid. P: 26-27

[86] Ibid. P: 28

[87] Ibid. P: 28-29

[88] Ibid. P: 28-29

[89] Evelyn Underhill. 1999. The Essentials of Mysticism. One world. Oxford. P: 11

[90] Prolegomena to the Metaphysic of Islam. P: 7

[91] Prolegomena to The Metaphysic of Islam. P: 9

[92] Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: 21-22

[93] Prolegomena to The Metaphysic of Islam. P: 9

[94] The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. P: 344. See also: Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: viii

[95] Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: viii

[96] ‘religion’ (r-noncapital) seem to be more probable to develop personality by rationality, sciences, social control, and can have anything and the transcendence been unified. The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. P: 345, 347. See also: Ibid. P: xiii. Its implication is that Religion and its institution seem to be fail and not as well as religion (f on capital).

[97] The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. P: 343. See also: Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: vii

[98] Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: 34

[99] Ibid. P: 4

[100] Frank G Goble. Op.Cit. P: 153

[101] Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: 33

[102] Ibid. P: 30

[103] Ibid. P: 30

[104] He explained that the experience is being religious if it involves four things: the first is the assumption that there are degrees of awareness, such as apprehension, conception, and so on. The second is the response, which is considered as part of an encounter. The third is experiencing of supreme reality. The fourth is conceiving of religious experience in its particular context. See: Joachim Wach. 1969. The Comparative Study of Religions. Columbia University Press. New York & London. P: 31.

[105] Emill Durkheim. 2005. Sejarah agama. Translated from The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. IRCISOD. Yogyakarta. P: 49-57

[106] Ninian Smart. Op.Cit. P: 4

[107] Joachim Wach. Op.Cit. P: 31

[108] Ninian Smart. Op.Cit. P: 4

[109] Joachim Wach. Op.Cit. P: 39

[110] Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. P: 14

[111] Ibid. P: 14

[112] Ibid. P: 3

[113] Ismail Raji al-Faruqi. 1982. Tawhid: Its Implications for Thought and Life. The International Institute for Islamic Thought. P: 2. satisfying religious feeling is probable if someone has passed away from the worldly desires of the animal soul, and gradually loss of self-consciousness and end with a state of absolute absorption in the contemplation of God. See: A.E. Afifi. 1964. The Mystical Philosophy of Muhyid Din – Ibnul Arabi. SH Muhammad Ashraf. Kashmiri, Bazar, Lahore. P: 138

[114] Helen Graham. 2005. Psikologi Humanistik: dalam konteks sosial, budaya dan sejarah. Translated from Humanistic Psychology in its historical, social and cultural context, by: Achmad Chusairi and Ilham Nur Alfian. Pustaka Pelajar. Yogyakarta. P: 12

[115] Helen Graham. Ibid. P: 13

[116] See: Helen Graham. Op.Cit. P: 113-114

[117] Ninian Smart. Op.Cit. P: 17

[118] Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas. 1963. Some Aspects of Sufism: as Understood and Practised among the Malays. Malaysian Sociological Research Institute LTD. Singapore. P: 5. see also: Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas. 1986: a Commentary on The Hujjat al-Siddiq of Nur al-Din al-Raniri. P: 130

[119] Evelyn Underhill. Op.Cit. P: 10

[120] Abdul Karim al-Jili. 1992. Syarh Musyakkalat al-Futuhat al-Makkiyyah li ibni ‘Arabi. Dar sa’ad al-shabah. Kuwait. P: 116-117

[121] Syihabuddin Yahya Suhrawardi. Op.Cit. P: 97-98

[122] Arnold A Loen. 1967. Secularization: Science without God? SCM Press. London. P: 64


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